In less than a month the Euclid telescope will start its 1.5 million km journey to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2. The European mission will observe billions of galaxies across more than a third of the sky, studying dark energy and dark matter as it has never been done before.
As recently announced by ESA Euclid is scheduled to liftoff on July 1st, 2023 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral, on board a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Originally the telescope was planned to be launched on a Soyuz ST-B, however, after Russia’s decision to suspend Soyuz launches from French Guiana, ESA has selected the Falcon 9 rocket.
Due to the amount of cold gas used to maintain the spacecraft in orbit around the Lagrange point, the mission lifetime is limited to six years, with the possibility of extension.
Shed light on the dark
Since, in 1998, the Hubble Space Telescope demonstrated that the universe is expanding at an increasingly faster rate, astrophysicists around the world have been working hard to discover something about the dark energy that allows for this.
It was discovered that roughly 68% of the Universe is dark energy, dark matter makes up about 27% and normal matter makes up less than 5% of the Universe. Besides that, we don’t know much more and many mysteries await to be uncovered.
Euclid will be a game-changer, it will create a 3D map (time as the third dimension) of the Universe looking at billions of galaxies out of 10 billion light years. The telescope will deeply study how the Universe expanded and how cosmic structure formed over this long period of time, revealing more about dark energy, dark matter and gravity properties.
The Euclide spacecraft consists of a service module and a payload module. In the payload module, a telescope will be supported by two scientific instruments, VIS and NISP. The service module hosts all the spacecraft’s main systems.
The journey to launch
The construction of ESA’s Euclid was commissioned to Italy’s Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor, in 2013. More than 200 scientists from 13 European countries took part in this project with important contributions from NASA, Canada and Japan.
Finally, in 2020 the two scientific instruments were integrated, at Airbus in Toulouse, France, to form the payload module. After more than a year of testing, in March 2022, the payload module and the service module were connected together in Turin, Italy.
Following extensive environmental and mechanical tests in Cannes, Euclid was shipped in Savona, Italy, towards the launch site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 14, 2023.